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The 5 Most Important RC Vehicles of all Time

By Matt Higgins


What makes a vehicle more important than another is debatable. We based our picks on a few criteria. One was overall popularity. Second, is or was it a leader in a specific category or segment. Last, a vehicle rose in our rankings if it changed the hobby. Check out our picks. Do you agree or disagree? Are we spot on or totally crazy?


Kyosho Turbo Burns

This is the 1/8-scale buggy that made 1/8-scale a legitimate racing class. At the professional level, 1/8-scale off-road racing is also the premier racing class, so saying a vehicle is the founding father of the racing class is no minor bestowment. The Turbo Burns created the basic 1/8-scale buggy blueprint that has been refined but never completely changed.


Traxxas Slash

The Slash gets credit for launching the short course craze right out of orbit. Short course is huge and might be the single biggest trend—dare we say it?—RC has ever seen. By “trend” we don’t mean to indicate that we believe short course is something that will come and go. We mean it’s a segment that is clearly hot and so much so that everyone has jumped onboard. Along with rock crawling, the Slash and short course also get credit for taking the hobby full circle to where scale looks matter again. Mark our words, when the hobby offers vehicles that actually look like something, it will grow; 1/8-scale buggies and truggies, as cool as they are, will never grow this hobby. We ranked the Slash as number 4, but how long short course sticks around will determine how high it rises on the list.


Tamiya Hornet

During the ’80s, sometimes referred to as RC’s golden era, RC had massive appeal. The single most popular vehicle was Tamiya’s Hornet off-road buggy with its simple plastic tub chassis and solid rear axle. Mom & pop hobby stores were everywhere, and all had Tamiya Hornets on the shelves. Sportsman, family-oriented racing was going on across the country, and it seemed as if every street had a kid smashing a Hornet into a curb. RC was simple and fun and didn’t have to compete with video games for attention. It truly was a golden era.


Team Associated RC10

Known as the gold-tub version, the original RC10, while scale looking, was actually the first off-road electric vehicle designed more for performance than realism. Before the RC10, scale models were built, and we happened to race them because we could. The RC10 was built to win races. The RC10 wasn’t Team Associated’s first race vehicle, but it quickly won an IFMAR world championship and placed the A-team as one of the top racing teams in RC.


Traxxas T-Maxx 

The 4WD nitro-powered T-Maxx is responsible for three things: starting the ready-to-run era, shifting the focus from electric to nitro, and it thrust Traxxas to the top of the hill. The T-Maxx started a run of success for Traxxas that has taken it from being one of many RC companies to arguably the number-1 RC company. The T-Maxx was such a good platform that it is still going strong. When it comes to nitro-powered bashing, it’s simply hard to beat a T-Maxx. We know; we’ve seen a lot of companies try.

Honorable Mentions:

Axial AX10—Rock crawling was already going strong, but the AX10 brought rock crawling into the mainstream and created a huge jump in this segment’s popularity.

HPI RS4 Mini—The RS4 Mini launched the first mini craze. Whether you liked minis are not, they were everywhere.

Kyosho Mini-Z—This mini is a micro, by some people’s standards, but no matter what you call it, this highly detailed and extremely fast when modified on-road racer has an almost cult-like following.

Tamiya Frog—The Frog is neck and neck with the Hornet in popularity. Because the Frog offered superior handling, it was more popular with RC’ers, but lacked a little bit of the Hornet’s scale looks.

Tamiya Blackfoot—The Blackfoot was the first hugely popular monster truck. As far as overall popularity, smaller buggies have taken a backseat to monster trucks ever since the Blackfoot hit hobby shop shelves.

Losi 8IGHT—The 8IGHT is nowhere near the first 1/8-scale buggy, but its radical design was a departure from the norm and launched a new era of 1/8-scale buggy design.

Tamiya Clod Buster—Rock crawling might never have jumped into mainstream popularity if the Clod Buster hadn’t been available for that first wave of Super class crawlers. Long before crawling, hundreds of scale monster trucks were built off this platform.

Losi Mini-T—The Mini-T launched the second mini craze. This time, minis were all about off-road.

HPI 5B—1/5 scale and large scale in general have been around for years, but the RC community as a whole never paid too much attention until the 5B came out.

Tamiya Bruiser—Senior editor Kevin Hetmanski insisted we list the Bruiser because, “It’s so cool, and everyone wanted one.”


Radio Control Car Action magazine is the world’s leading RC model car and truck magazine. Remote control racing, building, competitions are all covered in articles and reviews. RC cars are a fantastic family hobby. Electric, nitro and gas R/C cars are covered.

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Updated: July 22, 2015 — 11:44 AM


Add a Comment
  1. No Touring cars? guess they aren’t an important category to an off road mag.

  2. oh by the way great artical loved it

    greetings bo willems

  3. he Matt Higgins

    your forgetting a few important rc cars

    first of all the hpi savage series out run ,out sell, and out numbers , the tmaxx
    and where first to put bigblok engines in there cars

    and the tamiya wild willy was for a lot of kids the first rc
    or the hornet ? i dont no the numbers its was verry populair
    in holland

    greetings bo willems

  4. I agree with Kevin Hetmanski as the Brusier is a cool truck.
    To me the Tamiya Bruiser is the most scale R/C truck you can buy. It is made to look and perform like a real truck does. But it did lead to other 3-speed trucks. Its price was out of reach for most of us, but the new 3-speed trucks are much more affordable, have the scale looks that we love, and they perform like the Bruiser .

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